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THE RISE OF PROVINCIAL JEWRY
The Early Communities - Section 4 - (Jersey to Nottingham)
That there were Jews in the Channel Islands in Hanoverian times would have seemed less surprising to playgoers of a few generations ago than to students of to-day: for in a popular melodrama of the time, The Tragedy of Julia, there figures an honest, worthy local Jewish pedlar in the Cumberland style. He was not, it seems, a figment of the imagination, for in the Universal Magazine of 1787 (according to a contemporary newspaper cutting) reference is made to 'Levi the Jew,' who had travelled the Channel Islands for over twenty years--bringing back the date to about 1765. He was already dead by this time, for letters of administration over the property of Barnet Levy, of Guernsey, were issued in 1784.(i) He was not the only Jew in the Channel Islands at the period: in an old commercial account-book which for some reason or the other found its way into the muniments of the Great Synagogue in London reference is made to transactions with Joseph Lyon, of Guernsey, in 1800-1802. A Segar of Guernsey (not necessarily a Jew) figures among the subscribers to M. Sailman's Southampton publication of 1817 (below, p.100): while Alex. and David Solomon of the same place were licensed Navy Agents in 1814. About this time, Henry Ezekiel, of Exeter, was established in the island as a silversmith: while in the middle of the nineteenth century Moses Fink (father of the Hon. Theodore Fink, the Australian newspaper proprietor, born here in 1855) was one of the local Jewish residents, removing thence to Geelong, N.S.W., in 1861.
By now, the centre of interest had moved to Jersey, where David Lindo (subsequently of Jamaica) was born in 1833.(ii) The bulk of the community belonged of course to the Ashkenazi element, the leading spirit being a certain J. Wolffson. It was he, who, in a letter to The Voice of Jacob of 17th February 1843, intimated how 'for many years past Israelites have resided in this island, but however true to their faith they have not been enabled hitherto to erect a sanctuary wherein to perform religious service: those of our persuasion now living here, actuated by the desire to praise God in an appropriate manner, have resolved to build a Synagogue, and have to that purpose contributed, each to the utmost of his means.' To assist in the work, an appeal was made to the various Anglo-Jewish communities, and a number of contributions received--one of them being from Mark Levy, of Guernsey, perhaps Barnet's kinsman. The foundation stone of the Synagogue was laid, according to the Jersey and Guernsey
Post of the 20th May 1843, on the Tuesday before that date, at four o'clock in the afternoon; it was in Grove Place, St. Helier, and the ceremony was performed by the Wolffson or Woolfson referred to above, the founder, and Mr. Marks, the President. A benediction was invoked by the Rev. Mr. Franklin, presumably the congregational factotum, after which the congregation repaired to their new place of worship for the evening service. 'Afterwards, the whole society met at Mrs. Jewell's, in Hope Street, where they spent the remainder of the evening with becoming hilarity.' The community was sufficiently well organised to subscribe in 1844 to the Chief Rabbinate Fund and to have a vote at the election of Dr. Adler.
In 1847, the community comprised eleven full members and five additional seat-holders, representing a total population of 47 souls. It is on record that on June 1st of that year Maurice S. Mawson, of Pernambuco, was married at St. Helier to Rosa, daughter of Michael Phillips, of Jersey. Six years later there were seventeen seat-holders and the President was B. Levy. Among the local families was according to family tradition that of Crawcour, a dentist, said to have originated the amalgam filling of teeth. The last officiant to the Synagogue was the Rev. J. L. Hanau, who officiated at the funeral of a Jewish soldier who died there in January 1902, when the community had already been dissolved for some years; for the small Polish nucleus which had established itself there in 1892 found no ritual appurtenances and was unable to form a fresh community. The original settlement must therefore have died out about the year 1870. The cemetery at Almorah has occasionally been used up to recent times, but except for this the former Channel Islands community is not even a memory.
Of recent years, however, there has been a slight revival of local Jewish life. It is memorable that the Channel Islands were the only part of the European territories subject to the English Crown where the Nazi anti-Semitic system was enforced in the tragic years 1940-1945, with ghastly consequences to large numbers of persons who had taken refuge or had been deported there.
The King's Lynn community is, from the point of view of our present enquiry, particularly interesting. It is the solitary Anglo-Jewish community of which what may be termed the Articles of Foundation are preserved. Moreover, the unexpectedly early date of these - 1747 - makes it probable that in other places, of greater importance and within easier reach of London, Jews were established and synagogues organised at a yet earlier date, even though evidence is in no case available. Finally, it confirms the somewhat naive account in the series of Jewish Chronicle articles of 1842, which must be treated with greater respect than might normally be imagined.
The document referred to is a sheet pasted into the binding of a King's Lynn synagogue register of the nineteenth century, now preserved in the muniments of the United Synagogue. It is throughout in Yiddish, and the reading and interpretation are not always easy; there is a fair admixture of Hebrew, pointing to a far from negligible degree of Hebrew scholarship. The date is apparently the Thirty-Third Day of the Omer, 1747 - the Scholars' festival. It would appear that one member of the little group, Jacob Segal or Levi, referred to as being Haber (scholar), owned a Sepher Torah, which had been used previously in Divine worship. He now disposes of it to the community (Hebruta) consisting of himself, Selig or Solomon (ben Isaac) Segal, or Levi, and Abraham ben Isaiah: another signatory, not mentioned in the text, is Joseph ben Isaac Segal (Levi).
The conditions of purchase are carefully laid down. The scroll cost £5 10s.: but, as Jacob Levi subscribed only £1 10s. to the purchase fund, as against £2 paid by each of the others, they were to have the right to 10/- each from the congregational fund when it was available. It was laid down that no stranger might act as Segan to distribute congregational honours (section ii): that Jacob Levi was to be called up each New Year and Day of Atonement (section iii): and that everything that had been purchased for the Scroll should go with it (section iv). There were regulations for the congregational fund, or Charity Box: one person was to have it in his custody, another to look after the accounts, a third to possess the key: thus there could be no possibility of malversation. The Presiding Treasurer (Gabbay) was to be elected each year on Hosanna Rabba. No member owing the congregation any debt for the past half year should have any mitzvah (section v). Jacob Levi agreed that services should be held in his house, as hitherto so long as he had a suitable room available. Levi Hirsch Segal - presumably his son - was to continue to act as Hazan and would read the services on the Holy Days as previously (section vi). These were to be the fundamental regulations of the congregation as it was now formed; any person who infringed them would have to pay a fine of three guineas. On the other hand, those who left the town would lose all their rights.
The signatories to our document are not altogether strangers. Selig ben Isaac Levi is clearly to be identified with Salamon Levi, silversmith, of King's Lynn, who died in 1785 (Will: Ducarel 474): his estate was divided among his children Catherine (Kitty), Gertian, Emanuel and Isa. Abraham ben Isaiah is, I think, the synagogal equivalent to Abraham Jones, of King's Lynn (1729-1811), a native of Holland, whose father had been called Isaiah Groomsfelt. His descendants, among whom the name of Isaiah is common, are still active in the Anglo-Jewish community. He was at this time little more than a boy. Abraham Jones figures too in the Jewish Chronicle account of 1842 among the founders of the Congregation, which had by then existed 'for nearly a century.' His coadjutors were, according to this record, J. Solomon and L. and J. Goldsmid. It is possible that these last may have been later members of the community, towards the close of the century. It is however noteworthy that several members of the community were in fact gold (and silver)smiths, and that the form 'Goldsmid' seems to point (as do some other indications) to a Dutch origin for the founders.
The early King's Lynn synagogue was situated for many years in Tower Street. In 1811, the site was taken over for the new Methodist chapel, and for some time worship was carried on in an extemporised synagogue. 'There are same Jewish families resident here,' wrote William Richard, in his History of Lynn (Lynn, 1812), 'and we believe they have always had a synagogue in the town. It was for many years in Tower Street, but that has been lately pulled down, being part of the premises which the Methodists have purchased . . . At present they probably meet in some private apartment fitted up for the purpose, till a more suitable place can be obtained.'(i) It was, in fact, only in 1826 that proper accommodation was again found in a yard at the rear of 9 High Street - 'a pretty though small building,' as we are informed.
Of the officiants to the community we know very little. The reader in 1787 was one Jacob Hamburger; a frame containing the Penitential Prayers indited by him, and presented to the congregation in that year, was half a century ago in the Norwich synagogue. The only other traceable antiquarian relic of the Lynn community is a pair of silver bells, purchased at King's Lynn by Mr. Benjamin Lyons not long ago, and now at the Brixton synagogue.(ii)
A burial-ground was acquired in 1830, the community being represented by Hart Jones, silversmith: Daniel de Pass, clothier: Judah Hynes, optician: and Isaac Sampson, tobacconist. It is situated in Millfleet, and contains fourteen visible stones, some of which seem to go back to the period before the actual purchase of the ground, when it was presumably held on lease. They include those marking the graves of Solomon Levi (?1802--but this seems impossible): Isaac, son of Barnett and Elizabeth Emanuel, aet. 35 (1838): Brendel, wife of Issachar b. Nahum (=Mrs. Elizabeth Emanuel?), 1828; Abraham Moses Jones (1811) and his wife Dinah b. Aaron: and Rachel Miriam b. Abraham, wife of Levi b. Moses (probably Mrs. Hart Jones)(iii). Grenville Jones (1804-1844) of Shrewsbury (see above, p. 19), surgeon dentist, and his brother Horatio (b. 1819), surgeon dentist, of Shrewsbury, were grandsons of Moses Abraham Groomsfelt of King's Lynn.
In 1842, the community comprised seven families, though there were a few Jews resident also in some neighbouring centres who were attached to it. The Minister was J. Nuremberg and the officers Hart Jones and B. Kisch: the income was £21 10s. 9d.; the landlord of the Synagogue was C. Ames, and the rent £6 per annum; and there was attached to the community a ladies' charitable society for clothing poor Jewish orphans. It is said that the minister eked out his living by acting as interpreter to foreign sailors who frequented the port. The minutes of the congregation from 1830 onwards to 1843 (apparently deposited by Messrs. Joseph, of George Street, Minories) are preserved among the muniments of the Great Synagogue. From them and the account book (which extends to 1845) it is possible to reconstruct something of the local life at this period, from the 7s. 6d. paid for the expense of meetings at the Duke's Head tavern to the gratuities to 'a poor man with a bad leg' and the assistance given to a 'poor man taking up for licensed pedlar.' The surnames of seat-holders in 1843 comprise the following: Emanuel, Price, Lazarus (N. and L), Scott, Joel, Blomfield, Balica, Ploochgy, Tobias, Solomons, Harris, Marks (senior and junior), Hillison, and Morris. They were later reinforced by C. Cohnstaidt, furrier, of 36 High Street, who seems to have become the mainstay of the community in the end. In addition, there was a certain Kisch and an Emanuel at Wisbech. The De Pass family, it will be noticed, no longer figured: their most active members, Aaron de Pass (born at Lynn in 1815) and his brother Elias, were shortly afterwards to take a part in the history of the economic development of South Africa: they were followed by their nephews, Daniel Benjamin and Henry Kisch, of whom the first named was a member of President Kruger's government in the Transvaal and organised the first Jewish services in Pretoria. Thus from this little congregation there issued persons who played a role of importance in the Jewish world and in general life.
The last entry in the extant congregational records is dated February 28th 1846. The Community must have entered upon its final decay shortly after this date, as it does not figure in the Census returns and Jewish enumerations from 1847 onwards.
The traditional date for the foundation of the Leeds community is 1840. Jews were, however, resident here before that date. Lazarus Levi 'a Jew well known in Leeds' died in 1799, in his 105th year (G.M.); and, if he settled there in the prime of life, he should have arrived no later than 1750. He was father, perhaps, of Moses Levi, who was recorded in the press to have been baptised in 1772 on his marriage to a certain Mrs. Gordon. He had been in business in Briggate as a silversmith since at the latest 1758.
In the eighteen-twenties two Jewish families were living here, and they used to obtain their supply of Kosher meat from Sheffield (J.C. 24.viii.1900). Later on Solomon Hirschell licensed several successive Shochetim to practise here - Nahman Levi (1823), whose credentials were apparently sent to S. Newman (unless this was the licensee's English name): Abraham ben Shraga (1824): Solomon Platura ('with Mr. Davis': 1833) and Nathan ben Joseph Cohen ('Blitz': i.e. beLeeds?), Shochet to Mr. Mayer (1840). The 'Mr. Davis' mentioned in this list is presumably Gabriel Davis, optician, of Leeds (uncle of Arthur Davis, the translator of the liturgy), who was in Leeds by 1822. Another local figure was lsaac Abrahams, subsequently proprietor of the Polytechnic Music Hall in Leeds, whose son Joseph Abrahams (d. 1901) was born there in 1839. The Directory of 1822 shows a number of Jewish names.
From these data, it would appear probable that some sort of organised Jewish life developed in Leeds in the course of the eighteen-twenties. Up to 1846, services were held in a room in Bridge Street, and thereafter in Back Rockingham Street, where there was accommodation for 70 persons; while a plot of land in Geldard Road was granted on May 12th, 1840 by the Earl of Cardigan for use as cemetery, at a nominal price of £2. It was not, however, for another generation that this community, now the third in size in the entire country, began to play a part of any importance in Anglo-Jewish life.*
The community of Liverpool is the only important one in the whole of England, outside London, the history of which has been comprehensively written. I may be permitted to question the Hispanicity of the hypothetical congregation of 1750 (Margoliouth attempts to antedate it to the beginning of the century), but it is certain that a community was in existence not long after that date. Indeed, in 1755, John Wesley had spoken of the friendly behaviour of the inhabitants 'to the Jews and Papists who live among them.' Further evidence is provided by a curious work, by one J. Willme: 'Sepherah Shelosh. Three letters, sent to some dispersed, but well-advised Jews, now resident at Liverpool' (London 1756). It would seem thus that there is corroboration for the report that a community existed in Liverpool for some thirty years before what is now the Old Hebrew Congregation was organised in 1780 in Turton Court. Among the early members may be mentioned 'Pheis Liverpool,' and his son Nathan, whose wives were buried in London under the auspices of the Hambro' Synagogue in 1795 and 1792 respectively. The communal regulations (Takkanoth) were drawn up in 1799 and the cemetery acquired at the same period.
The compilation of the history of a community so important as that of Manchester is a task which it is impossible to take in one's stride, and here I can do no more than recapitulate. It was founded apparently in the seventeen-eighties, the leading spirits being two brothers from Liverpool, Lemon and Jacob Nathan: another early member was Isaac Franks, who married a Miss Nash, a Quakeress who became a Jewess (information of their great-great-grandson, Mr. B. Franks, of Hull). An Isaac Mosse or Moss was Treasurer of the Literary and Philosophical Society in 1789, but there is no indication other than the slightly equivocal name that he was a Jew. The synagogue was situated in 1804 in Garden Street, Withy Grove, being removed two years later to Ainsworth Court. The original cemetery was opened in Pendleton in 1794 (another version says 1773), the purchasers being Isaac Isaac, Philip Isaac Cowan and Jacob Franks.
The earliest known officiant to the community was apparently that curious peripatetic scholar and pamphleteer Joseph Crool, whose activity is commemorated in the earliest local Jewish publication, which seems to reveal a healthy communal life: Service performed in the Synagogue of the Jews, Manchester, on the nineteenth of October, 1803; being the day appointed for a general fast: consisting of prayers, a sermon, and psalms, and hymns. Delivered in Hebrew, by Rabbi Joseph Crool; and translated, by him, into English.
His incumbency did not last for long, for we shortly after find in office one Barnett (1806), who was in turn succeeded by Aaron Jacobs. In the Manchester and Salford Directory of 1828 there figures the name of Abraham Abrahams, Jewish Rabbi, Riderfield, 15 Holdgate Street. Nevertheless, when the new Synagogue in Halliwell Street was consecrated on September 2, 1825, Mr. Oppenheim, Hazan of Liverpool, was brought over to perform the ceremony.
The earliest local Jewish charity, the Manchester Jewish Philanthropic Society, was organised in 1804.
The following unmistakeably Jewish names are to be found in the Manchester Directory of 1790:--
An important name is added in the Manchester and Salford Directory of 1804 (Deans & Co.):
The first Newcastle Jew on record is David Henriques, who died in 1775 (Will: Alexander 472). By 1831, there was a rudimentary community, as is shown by the following publication (Newcastle on Tyne, 1831): Discourse delivered at a Jewish meeting held at Mr. D. Cohen's, Westgate Street, on the 8th September, being the Coronation Day of . . . King William the fourth, to whom the Supreme King of the Universe has imparted a portion of his glory, and commencing our New Year 5592 since the creation of the world by Martain Valintine from Poland. Already, in the previous year, the community had been sufficiently numerous to purchase a burial-ground, and it must be presumed that some congregational organisation existed even earlier. The founder was according to report a certain Trytle Joel, who perhaps had settled in the town in the eighteenth century, the David Cohen mentioned above being the first President. In 1838, a new Synagogue was erected in Temple Street, through the instrumentality of I. A. Jacques. The cemetery acquired in 1830 was in Westgate Road, on the site of what is now the Newcastle Brewery, where tombstones are still in evidence.
There is a somewhat absurd story (fostered, one is sorry to see, by the most distinguished local Jewish family) that a Jewish colony continued to exist in Norwich throughout the Middle Period of Anglo-Jewish history. It is needless to waste time on this. There is, however, some evidence that the community is among the oldest in England; for A. A. Levy, writing in The Jewish Chronicle of April, 1842, speaks of a disused cemetery in Mariner's Lane, acquired by a certain Solomon Levy from the Corporation about a century and a half before. This ground, he says, was long used by all the Jews of the Eastern counties (he estimates the number of interments in it as some 800--an obviously exaggerated figure). The last was that of a certain Lion Levy, about 1826, a member of the purchaser's family: thereafter, the ground fell into disuse and was occupied by a market gardener. That this ground should have gone back to the seventeenth century is clearly impossible, and it was probably opened in the middle of the eighteenth. Another plot, at the rear of 34 Horns Lane, Ber Street, was reported to Sir Hermann Gollancz when he visited Norwich in the eighteen-nineties, but all traces of it had already disappeared by then.*
It is in any case certain that by the beginning of the second half of the eighteenth century Jews were not only resident in, but had even begun to branch out from, the city. Among the early members of the Portsmouth community were the brothers Moses and Akiba ben Samuel, both described as being 'of Norwich' (unless some unidentified German city is really in question here), whose names figure shortly after the year 1766: while a certain 'Solomon Norwich' was buried in London under the auspices of the Hambro' Synagogue in 1789. The persons mentioned above perhaps belonged to the family of the first Lord Mancroft, whose grandfather, Michael Samuel, is recorded to have left Norwich for Canada in 1816. Another ancestor of his was his great-grandfather, David Soman, who founded the family shoe-business in the same place in 1800. David Moses, who landed in England in 1759, stated in his Alien's Return in 1798 that he was resident at Norwich for 34 years before settling in Plymouth. The continuous record of the Norwich community dates, however, only from the year 1813, when a fresh burial-ground--the third - was acquired in the names of Barnett Crawcour, dentist; Henry Carr, merchant; Israel Jacobs, optician; and Colman Michael, of Wymondham, merchant. The first-named was regarded as the father of the community, having been responsible for the establishment of the synagogue, then situated near St. George's Tombland church. The 'Minister' in the early part of the nineteenth century was Lyon Mordecai (1784-1844), described on his tombstone as 'a sincere friend to the needy and a well-wisher to all mankind,' who received the munificent salary of 6/- weekly; he is obviously identical with Judah Leib ben Mordecai, whom Rabbi Hirschell licensed in the summer of 1823 to act as Shochet in Norwich. That he was in office continuously during the next twenty-one years is not quite certain, for it is tempting to identify him with R. Leib of Norwich, who conducted a Heder in Drury Lane, London, about the year 1826. The cemetery's vicissitudes apparently reflect the precarious life of the congregation. In 1837, it was deemed prudent to deposit the title-deeds with the Great Synagogue in London. Four years later, after a narrow escape from total loss, it was recovered for the community by the payment of the arrears of rent, and in 1853, after further vicissitudes, was regained by the President, Joel Fox (a member of the Town Council), on a 75-year lease. In the next year, however, the Burials Act forbade intramural interment, and a fresh ground had to be acquired. The Jewish World (?) for July 18, 1884, contains an article on this cemetery, which has been periodically rediscovered since then; among those buried here were Barnett or Bernard Crawcour, the father of the community, who died in 1835, and Lyon Mordecai, its Minister. A new synagogue in what was then called St. Faith Lane was dedicated in 1848, when Joel Fox was Warden and S. Cato Minister; like others of the oldest Jewish places of worship in this country, it was destroyed by enemy action in the war of 1939-45.
My earliest record of a Jew in Nottingham in modern times dates back to 1763-4, when Moses ben Jacob Ballin, of Nottingham, was admitted a member of the Great Synagogue in London; while a Sephardi artist, named Abraham Osorio, was resident there in 1788. There is evidence that some sort of community was in existence as early as 1805, for in that year Joseph Crool, one of the first Anglo-Jewish preachers and writers, (who may have been its minister and factotum) published there a discursive work entitled The Importance and Necessity of a more general Knowledge of the Hebrew language.
In the course of the next few years, the Jewish population grew. The founder of the community, according to local report, was a certain David Solomon(s), a Russian Jew who settled in Nottingham in the eighteen-twenties. In 1822 his name figures in an application made for a piece of ground to be used as a Jewish cemetery.(i) The following names are affixed to this document:- Solomon Selek, Tobias Lyon, Lemuel Lyon, Barnett Simpson, Lemen Simon, Jacob Wolfson, Nathan Joseph, Moses Levi, Benjamin Herts, Nathan Moses, Joseph Joseph, Jacob Elias, David Solomon, and Solomon Solomon. The grant was apparently made (according to the investigations of A. Lassman) in 1828, when a piece of ground was rented. In the lease, descriptions follow each name. Moses Levi now appears as the 'priest,' presumably the Minister; Solomon Selek is of the City of London, Chairmaker; Tobias Lyon is a Twill Manufacturer; while Jacob Wolfson, Lemuel Lyon and the two Josephs were of Bedford, which community presumably intended to make use of the new House of Life. The signatories, other than those mentioned above, are described as Watchmakers, or Lace and Silk Merchants. This cemetery, which was situated in Sherwood Street, remained in use until 1869.
In 1825, Chief Rabbi Solomon Hirschell authorised Jacob Kisch to act as shochet in Nottingham, sending his licence to the Parnas David ben Joshua, who must be identified, in default of any other David, with the David Solomon mentioned above.
In 1839, the community comprised seven families, who worshipped in a private house, one Mordecai Marshall being the Minister.(ii) Eventually, it is said, services were held in the house of Joel Davis, in Park Street, who had succeeded Solomons as head of the community. A famous local notable was Michael Zalman Polack, better known as Solomon Alexander, who received a synagogue appointment in Plymouth in 1823 and subsequently became the first Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem.
A little later in the nineteenth century there was a small influx of German Jews, as to the other industrial cities of the Midlands, who did a good deal for local prosperity but drifted away from the Jewish community entirely: a typical instance was Lewis Heymann (1803-1866), from Hamburg, of the firm of Heymann & Alexander, who founded the Nottingham lace curtain industry in the middle of the century and was Mayor of Birmingham in 1857.
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